I have been doing some baking, so I would love to talk about the Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffins I made last week! Or perhaps Cranberry Orange Sour Cream muffins are a preferable topic. Or maybe Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Truffles, or what if I tell you about Ginger Pear Crisp?
Well, actually, what I want to talk about is Spring Green Beans. I ate some a few days ago. Yes, just a few days ago, on a chilly winter December day. They were there on the buffet table at a conference I attended, with a tall wire place marker clipped to the side of the bowl, holding a very clear, neatly printed label, “Spring Green Beans.”
I wrinkled my forehead and scratched my head a little bit when I saw that label. I was trying to think of where in the world at the moment it might actually be spring. Then I reasoned that perhaps they were harvested last spring and preserved just for this special event. Maybe they came from a can or from a frozen package, but they looked too vibrant green to have been preserved in any such way, so maybe they were flew in from California? But it’s not spring in California, is it?
I ended up coming to the conclusion that the label was just a blatant lie. Unless spring is just a nickname for unusually buoyant beans? …but enough about vegetables, since baking and confectioning is more my thing these days.
I recently made Cranberry Orange muffins using a recipe from The Baking Barrister. Her recipe is downright my favorite mufin ingredient combination ever, plus she helped me master the crumb topping! I won’t go into my quest for the perfect muffin again, but these sure come close! I had tangerines so that is what I used for the orange zest and juice.
The Pumpkin Cream Cheese muffins I made from Brown Eyed Baker were fantastic, and they gave me another chance to work on my streusel. I didn’t add the pecans, reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup in the batter, and intead of pumpkin pie spice, I just upped the amounts of the other spices! The cream cheese in the middle is such a decadent surprise.
I also tried my hand at making truffles, a trio of pumpkin truffles in fact. I adapted a recipe for Pepita Date truffles from A Couple Cooks. Since I was making them in a blender instead of a food processer, I soaked the dates in warm water for 30 minutes, then drained before blending. It worked, but there probably was enough still stuck in the blender that to make a few more truffles. (So I learned how to take my blender apart and clean it real good!)
I also made Pumpkin Spice Truffles using a recipe from Annie’s Eats. I made only a half recipe, and so omitted the graham crackers and just went with ginger snaps. I had trouble with the white chocolate stiffening up too quickly while melting, though. I guess you have to be quick with white chocolate. I ended up making some dark chocolate ones and a few with some white chocolate dolloped on top, no biggie, still delicious! My favorite part is the ginger snap crumbles on top. I had both ginger snaps and melted chocolate left over, so those cookies definitely got dipped and put to good use!
For my husband, the only success here were the cranberry muffins, since they weren’t too sweet like the other goodies. I actually made the pumpkin muffins when family was in town, and the truffles for a late Thanksgiving dinner we had together. I also made a Ginger Pear Crisp for this occasion, which hands down, is my husband’s pick for winner of best dessert.
My husband is definitely picky when it comes to dessert, but I think I have to credit him for being the one to also teach me about what it means to have a good taste.
I think it means knowing what it is good for you. Often what is best for you is what is in season, since produce at its peak just tastes better and is likely also at the height of its nutrition content. Since reading The Herbal Kitchen, I also love to incorporate good-for-you spices and herbs into everything, and ginger is a great spice to counteract this cold-and-flu-season weather.
So Ginger Pear Crisp wins on all fronts. I’m not going to be cheeky and call it Fights-off-colds Winter Pear Crisp, but you get the idea.
I first made a ginger pear crisp with one of my baking queen friends using an America’s Test Kitchen recipe. Now every time I make the crisp, it goes something like this….
Ginger Pear Crisp
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup almonds, sliced or finely chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons candied ginger, small diced (optional)
4 ripe pears
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, ground ginger, salt in a medium bowl. Drizzle melted butter over flour mixture, stirring until large crumbs form. Stir in candied ginger if using.
Peel pears, then slice in half, core, and remove tough middle stem. Slice lengthwise, and add to a 1 quart round baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice, then stir in grated fresh ginger and cornstarch.
Sprinkle crisp topping evenly over pears. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until pears are soft and juices are bubbling. Cool on wire rack about 10 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream!